Saturday, March 3, 2012

dose of reality #3


strabismus [strəˈbɪzməs]
n. Strabismus is a condition in which the eyes do not point in
the same direction. It can also be referred to as a tropia or

i didn't
what that
word meant
december 23rd.
the day
grub and i
took vee
an ophthalmologist.


5 minutes
of the doctor
examining vee,
she said that
vee would
never see normally.
vee would
need surgery.
grub said
it felt like
punched in the gut.
it did.
i remember
the first thing
that i thought
when she said that
now she can never be
a pilot
why would i care
about that?

. . . . .

i noticed
vee's eyes
had a tendency
to go
many of you
noticed it too.
i worried
hoped that
it would pass.
hoped i was
as the months
i worried
more and more.
our pediatrician
out of the blue,
and said
maybe we should
go see an
before we left
to mexico
i couldn't help
but wonder
if he worried about
the same thing.

before christmas
we went
to the doctor
that we now call
that crazy doctor,
not because her
prognosis was wrong
but because
she had
no bedside manner,
offered little hope
to fix
vee's eye problem.

we saw her
grub and i
could think
and talk
of nothing else.
we worried
and fretted.
i blamed myself.
my bad genes
my traumatic labor
was the cause.

i started
to be shy
about posting
photos of her
when her
eyes looked
when people
close to me
made a comment
not liking
my favorite photo
of vee

i took
our christmas card
her eyes
were crossed.


the rational side
of me
that this was
a small problem
in the great
scheme of things.
but the mother in me
that people would
judge her,
think less of her...
that people would
see photos of her
just notice her eyes
instead of her.
i know.


i found myself
staring at her eyes,
for a glimmer
of improvement...
looking at other babies
with their
perfectly-centered eyes
with jealousy.

i hated myself
for thoughts like that.

vee was still vee.
nothing had changed.
i reminded myself
of my dear friend
who wore braces on her legs
her childhood
and then grew up to be
an amazing
professional dancer.

i remembered
the last chapter
in the book
Bad Mother,
that my friend sent me
(a book all
new mothers
should read).
the author talks
about her own struggles
with her son's problems:

The most toxic thing parents can do is allow their delight and pride in their children to be spoiled by disappointment, by frustration when the children fail to live up to expectations formed before they were even born, expectations that have nothing to do with them and everything to do with the parents' own egos.

. . . . .

so we did what
most parents
would do...
we sought
a second opinion.

we went
to the big hospital
in nearby lausanne
that specializes in
eye problems.

the chief medicine
specializes in
i was scared.
he looked mean
in his photo.


i didn't know
if i could deal
with another
swiss doctor.

we headed out
on the train
early in the morning.


the hospital was
modern and
the nurses
were helpful.


we had
a much better
this time around.
the staff was
and answered
the many questions
i asked
in broken french.


they were
impressed with
vee was
called her
a bon bébé.

the doctor
was very kind
and examined
her carefully.
he played with vee
and called her


he explained
things to us
and prepared us for
{his words}
the things
we would need to do
to make sure
both vee's eyes
the potential surgery
she may need before
she turns
one year old.

it's still
a scary thought.
but i think
we feel
a little more
a little more equipped
to deal
with the road ahead
and help vee
the best we can.


i have learned
to forget
about what
others think
and focus on
just taking care of vee
her happiness
and well-being...
delight in her
and all.

The thing to remember, in our quest to do the right by our children and by ourselves, is that while we struggle to conform to an ideal or to achieve a goal, our life is happening around us, without our noticing. If we are too busy or too anxious to pay attention, it will all be gone before we have time to appreciate it.

-Ayelet Waldman from Bad Mother



  1. I would be lying if I was telling you that I didn't see Vee's particularity (I was pretty sure that is was strabisme since there is a little boy in Alice's baby swimming class with the same condition).

    I hope that you will post many pictures of your baby girl because she is so so so adorable. Yes, her eyes are a bit different but she is much more than that...her little nose, her delicate lips and the way that she often put her head near her shoulder like if she was saying "hey, what's up people".

    And that Christmas picture was awesome...I would have loved to receive a card with that image on the cover.

    You are an awesome mom! Take care xox

  2. Oh sweetie, I understand. Our little Lucy was born with craniosynostosis, which meant she had no soft spots in her skull. Without that stretching room, her brain had nowhere to go and her skull just grew upward. By the time she had surgery at 10 months — where they took off her skull and sculpted a bigger one — she looked sort of deformed. We didn't see it until after. But she's now 3, completely healthy and normal and utterly fearless. I know that she's tough and less prone to react to spills because she had that surgery early. On top of that, my husband had strabismus when he was a kid. He had to wear an eye patch and didn't have that surgery until he was 15. He wishes he could have had it when he was less than one. And by the way, she's beautiful.

  3. I had wondered about her eyes, but also thought she was awesomely adorable in each photo you've posted. All children, every baby, has something odd, different, unique. My mom only had one basically normal kid out of three! (I wasn't it.) Second opinions are essential for everything, I've found out. I have every faith that her eyes will be fine. In the meantime, she's amazingly cute!

  4. I can't wait to delight in Vee in April (so soon!), exactly as she is. I hope her toes are ready for kisses and her nose is anxious for boops. You are a great mother, Gwen, and I know that you and John would not trade her for the world.

  5. You know, truth be told, I love the cross-eyed pictures best of all. Yes, it is something people notice and think about and sometimes are bold enough to comment on.. but it is one of the things that makes vee exactly who vee is. And honestly, I will kind of miss it when I don't get to see new cross-eyed pictures of vee anymore. Maybe that's a bad thing to say, like I'm wishing cross-eyed-ness or bad vision on her and of course I don't mean it that way, but it's true that I find her eyes very endearing and charming. And I do love the pictures where you can see her eyes in all their glory.

    I didn't know Deb when she was wee little and had to have surgery to correct her eyes, or when she had coke bottle glasses, but I feel like I did because I have heard the stories and seen the pictures and I love that part of her history. And I think there is something inherently cute about those times when you can tell she is really tired because she goes slightly cross-eyed. It's just one of those quirks that belongs to her, and connects me to her history.

    Anyhow, thank you for sharing your inner thoughts with all of us. It is a brave thing to do and I love to know that you trust us enough to share. You two are wonderful parents and vee is super-lucky to have you. Keep on keeping on, and I hope that sometime soon we will be in Switzerland so we can heft a brick through that crazy doctor's window and let her know what we think of her thoughtless bedside manner.

    Love you...

  6. beautiful post (as always). (i know, i never comment, i always keep them unread with the intent to, but am terrible at finding time to come back to it.) you had me from tears to laughter in an instant with the scary doctor. my heart goes out to you guys, but it sounds like you are doing amazingly. little vee is a lucky girl. and gorgeous, OBVIOUSLY. <3 they are SO DELIGHTFUL, no???

  7. I am not sure if I have left a comment here already or only on your other blog, but I wanted to tell you that as a woman who is 6 months pregnant with her first child, I absolutely love reading about your experiences with vee. I get so excited whenever a new post pops up. I don't know a lot of other first-time Moms my age, and you are the only person I've found online who is writing about new motherhood with such candour and grace. I am trying to file away what you say into my brain so I can remember it after my baby is born. Thank you for sharing your life here.

  8. bravo my friend for being brave.
    when F had surgery at 4 months old i was petrified. and it didn't go as smoothly as they had promised. but it was FINE.
    i'm so glad the second opinion went better than then the first - and you and grub ar AWESOME - and it is more important that vee is happy [which she looks] than her eyes be straight [and i have to say i always thought it was super super charming too]

  9. I love you Gwen S. I am weeping right now. You note was so touching.

    You are an amazing mom.

    John, you are an amazing dad.

    Vee, you are so cute that Felix is having a difficult time with this long distance relationship.

    Thank you for putting your heart out there. You are so wonderful sharing your experiences considering how difficult it has been. Everyone wants their child to be perfect. I know I am guilty of it.

    Vee is perfect. She adorable in every way possible. I wish I could squeeze all of you right now.

  10. hey, our friend maria's baby, clio, had the same thing. She got glasses, and now she's fine. tell you more about that when i drop by. i can put you in touch with her if you want.

    sorry for publishing anonymous, but i dont have the patience to figure out how to post my name on this thing.


  11. What a wonderful post! I'm so glad you've found a specialist you're comfortable with. Vee is especially lucky to have great parents to help her along the way. Hang in there!

  12. I had bad strabismus as a baby and went through two eye surgeries as a child. I am totally fine as an adult and I have a feeling your baby will be too! You made the right decision getting a second opinion. While surgery might seem scary it is sooo important to go to the best doctor you can find. The reason I had the surgery twice is because the first was with a doctor who didn't have as much experience with the issue. The second time around, my parents took me to a doctor who had invented a new technique (this was in the early 80s) where bows are tied with the stitches instead of knots, so they can be adjusted the next day. I went to the eye doctor all through childhood and am great at 33 due to the best care! So moral of the story, don't ever compromise on medical care, it's worth every penny to go to the best!

  13. I love this post. Sweet little Vee, she always makes me smile with her adorable expressions. That Christmas photo was about my favorite photo of any baby ever (except of course for one or two of my own kid!). I'm glad that you got a second opinion from a non-crazy doctor, and that he did a better job of helping you cope with something so potentially scary. I'm just glad it's something so relatively minor, though I'm sure it doesn't feel that way to you. Hugs to you three. XOX

  14. yes! to everything everyone has already said here. vee is beyond precious. you are so very brave. and the three of you make a very special family.

    so really now, just to say. i am here. and reading. and sending you courage and conviction across the miles.


  15. gwen, i just want to say that vee is so lucky to have two incredible parents who love her so much. she is obviously happy and loved and that is what matters. xoxo

  16. Gwen,

    Danielle-formerly of Pullman, France, Japan, and DC here. I regularly read your posts. And just wanted to send you a huge hug. The only thing I ever noticed about Vee, up until your previous post, "dose of reality 2," was that she is absolutely beautiful and precocious in so many ways. Juliette was later than many babies to reach some of the developmental milestones, and I worried initially that something was wrong. But now she seems far more alert than her cohort. We will all worry about our little ones at one time or another, but we must see them with our own loving eyes, and not the eyes of insecurity that see a warped image based on fears of how others may see our children.

    Vee is absolutely beautiful, lively, and smart (and stylish). This has been apparent in all the photos you have posted. It wasn't until the previous post that I wondered about her eyes. And as many posts here attest, she will be perfectly fine after the operation.

    I'm very proud of how you and Grub have been caring for her, and proceeding through these first months of parenthood. You both and Vee are so luck to have each other.

    Bisous from le far ouest,

  17. Make sure you take lots of photos of Vee with her sweet and special-to-her baby squiggle smile. One of these days the doctors will work their magic and she will still have a beautiful smile for the rest of her life but it will not be a unique and precious baby squiggle smile.

  18. I commend you for your honesty and strength, it's so hard to be open about these things. Vee is such a beautiful little soul & so lucky to be the child of such wonderful people. I am wishing for the best and hoping the journey goes more smoothly. It's crazy how much a difference a good doctor can make! Asa & I had our struggles during labor & right after birth which led to me not being able to breastfeed. As silly as this sounds, it's been incredibly difficult to let go of expectations & not be jealous of those who can. So on some level I feel like u can relate. I need to read that book...much love to you and your family.

  19. Meant to say "I" can relate not "u" darn phone-sorry

  20. Gwen,

    I'm just catching up with you- and Grub and sweet Vee- I've been away too long. I didn't even know you had a baby! Congratulations!!

    Well, she's amazing and perfect. Parenting is hard. It really is, but it sounds like you guys have a great attitude so far. All we can do is our best. It will be enough.

    She's lucky to have you two for parents.

    Much love from this side of the world.

  21. isn't it wonderful when you find caring doctors who are gentle and encouraging? i'm glad that you got a second opinion.

    and vee, well, she is just delightful. i love all of the photos that you've been posting. xox


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